The writing of history is the selection of information and the synthesis of this information into a narrative that will stand the critical eye of time. History, though, is never static. One never creates the definitive theory of an historical event. History invites each generation to re-examine its own story and to reinterpret past events in light of present circumstances.

The creation of this story is more difficult than it seems. From the beginning the historian is forced to decide what sort of human motivations matter most: Economic? Political? Religious?

For instance, what causes the American Revolution? The historian Bernard Bailyn argues that ideology or the history of thought causes the American Revolution. No, the historian Oscar Handlin argues, the Revolution is caused by social upheaval (i.e., the dislocation of groups and classes of people). Sydney Ahlstrom argues that religion is an important cause of the American Revolution. And so forth. The student will look at several theories of history, primary source material, and then decide for himself what really happened.

These history units invite the student to be a historian. The student looks at the sources and scholarship available and makes a decision. The student must know and accept that the past is constantly changing according to new scholarship discoveries. Therefore, as new sources are discovered, and old ones reexamined, the student understands that theories of history may change. These units insist that the student commit himself to the task of examining these theories, primary source material, and make a judgement call. “Every true history is contemporary history,” historians Gerald Grob and George Billias write. The student is asked to make the theories of historical events personal and contemporary.

While the historian knows that he can never be completely neutral about history, scholarly historical inquiry demands that he implement the following principles:

  1. The historian must evaluate the veracity of sources. There must be a hierarchy of historical sources.
  2. The historian must be committed to telling both sides of the historical story. He may choose to lobby for one view over the other, but the historian must fairly present all theories.
  3. He must avoid stereotypes and archetypes. He must overcome personal prejudices and dispassionately view history in ruthlessly objective terms.
  4. He must be committed to the truth no matter where his scholarship leads him. At times the historian will discover unflattering information about his nation/state. He must not hesitate to accept and then to tell the truth.
  5. Finally, the historian understands that real, abiding, and eternal history ultimately is made only by people who obey God at all costs.

After everything is said and done, the historian only is studying the past. He cannot really change the past. Theories about the past come and go, and change with each generation. However, the past is past. It is over. Historians will debate about history, but they can never change history.

Only God can change history. God alone can change history. When a person is reborn, his present, future, and, yes, even his past is changed. History is literarily rewritten. He is a new creation. That bad choice, that sin, that catastrophe is placed under the blood of the Lamb and everything starts fresh and new. A new history for a new person.

Let me illustrate. 139 years ago my great-great-great grandfather was a slave owner in Eastern Tennessee whose passion was to kill Yankees. From that inheritance, like most white southerners who grew up in the 1960s, I grew up to mistrust, even to hate African-Americans. Like so many people captured by their history and culture, my present and future became my past. However, when I was a senior in high school, Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. My attitudes changed. It took time but prejudices disappeared. Ultimately, I married my New Jersey wife and we have three African-American adopted children ­whose ancestors, by the way, may have been owned by my great-great-great uncle! My children’s children’s African-American children ­will be my grandchildren. Imagine! Quite literally, my history has been rewritten. It has been changed irrevocably by my decision to invite Jesus Christ to be Savior of my life. In a real sense, family prejudice and death existing for generations ended in this generation. The destructive, historical cycle that was part of my history has ended. No one, nothing can do that but the Lord. History has been rewritten! My prayer is that if you do not know this God who can change history ­even your history ­that these history units ma may encourage you to invite Jesus Christ into your heart as Savior.

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